Tourism Industry’s New Mantra: Travel Nearer

DUBAI - A new travel trend is shaping up in the UAE with most travelers opting to visit nearer destinations and Southeast Asian countries, as the global crunch starts to manifest its ugly face in the travel industry.

By Lily B. Libo-on

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Published: Fri 9 Jan 2009, 1:17 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:35 AM

Mohammed Al Rais, deputy general manager of Al Rais Travel, told Khaleej Times that outbound tourists these days were mostly individual travelers who were opting to spend holidays in nearer destinations like Tunisia and Egypt and in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

“In the past years, people traveled to the US, Canada, Australia and to European countries, as these used to be their favourite holiday destinations. Now, the trend has changed in the times of economic meltdown,” he said.

A glaring five per cent decrease can also be seen among corporate travelers, who used to spend 21 days or more, but are now going on holidays for just five to seven days.

There has been a 10-15 per cent decrease in the number of individual travelers, both inbound and outbound, as compared to the same period in 2007.

Al Rais also pointed out that visitors from the UK had also decreased 20 per cent as the global economic crunch began whipping Europe. “But, this loss is covered up by travelers from the GCC countries, particularly from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” he stressed.

Generally, the last quarter of 2008 still looked good because of the earlier bookings from September to October, which even had its spillover this January 2009. “But, definitely, the holiday season was never a holiday. It was just a normal business season for the travel and tour agencies,” Kulwant Singh, managing partner of Lama Desert Tours and Cruises, said.

He added that the start of 2009 was not also the busiest season with 10 to 15 per cent decrease in the number of travelers, particularly corporate travelers.

Both Al Rais and Singh, however, are banking on the start of the school holidays by January 12 and the all-out efforts by the travel and tours agencies, hotels and the airlines to bring in more visitors to the UAE during the Dubai Shopping Festival, which kicks off on January 15. Singh said that the travel and hotel industries were expecting positive results from the new strategies being implemented by the Department of Tourism.

These strategies include the hotels cutting down their room rates from 50 to 60 per cent; most airlines reducing their air-fare by as much as 40 per cent, and other special offers from hotels and travel and tour operators to motivate tourists to come to Dubai and to this region. “The travel and tour operators are definitely having discounted excursions and other exciting activities for UAE’s visitors,” Singh said.

“With the DSF and the new strategies, all are hoping to reduce the damage the economic meltdown is causing on the industry. We are expecting a 15 to 20 per cent increase in the number of tourists in weeks from now,” Singh concluded.

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